The Truth of the Bible:
What does the Qur'an say about it?
Muslims and Christians believe in the infallibility of the original biblical manuscripts. But many adherents of Islam think that today's Bible has undergone substantial changes with regard to its early manuscripts and their translated versions. However, the Qur'an does not support this claim unanimously! In fact, it makes it clear that the Bible, known as the Torah and the Injil, was found reliable in Muhammad's (pbuh) time, the sixth century. To prove that the twentieth century Bible is still authentic it only has to be compared with a copy from the sixth century.
All quotations are taken from "The Meaning of the Holy Quran" translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and published by Armana Corporation, U.S.A., 1989.
Because of a lack of space it has not always been possible to print whole verses. The reader is encouraged to look up the references and their contexts in either the Qur'an or the Bible.
The Testimony of the Qur'an about the Reliability of the Bible
- "And if thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the book from before thee..." (Surah 10, Yunus, verse 94).
"Those who have been reading the book from before thee" are Jews and Christians who read the Torah and the Injil (Gospel)! If they were reading corrupted holy books, their minds would have been influenced by many misconceptions. It would therefore make no sense for Allah to command those who are in doubt to ask Jews and Christians who allegedly were misled by changed Scriptures! In order to follow the mandate in this verse it is absolutely necessary to believe that the Scriptures before Islam are uncorrupted!
Here the question may be asked: "Are what is known as the Torah and the Injil in Muhammad's (pbuh) time identical with today's Bible that contains the Old and the New Testament?" Regarding the Injil an affirming answer has already been given on our page "The History of the Qur'an and the Injil." The Old Testament too is identical with the Torah as seen from the following reasoning:
The Hebrew word "Torah" means literally "law", "instruction". It refers to the revelations given to Moses. "The term was often applied to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, e.g. 1 Chronicles 16:40) as a whole; and as the importance of the Prophets and Writings grew, it was sometimes used to describe them all as divinely revealed instructions and traditions" (Rosemary Goring, Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions (Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1995).
Evidence from the Bible:
Sometimes when the law is spoken of in the Injil, the New Testament, it is used in the all-including sense. In Romans 3 Paul quotes verses from the book of Psalms and from the Prophets but then he concludes in verse 19 with, "what the law (Torah) says..." (See also 1 Cor. 14:21)
Jesus himself referred to the Psalms as "the law (Torah)" in John 10:34. Another example is found in John 12:34 where the Jews speak of verses from Psalms 89:36, Isaiah 9:7, and Daniel 7:14 as "the law (Torah)".
Evidence from the Qur'an:
In the Qur'an too the meaning of "Torah" (where all 39 books of the Old Testament are included) is used. This becomes clear when one looks at the evidence found in the Qur'an, and in history:
Several verses in the Qur'an bear witness to the truth that the Torah was unchanged at the time of Jesus.
In Surah 19, Maryam, verse 12, Yahya, who lived at the time of Jesus was told "to take hold of the Book, (the Torah)."
Surah 3, Ali'Imran, verse 48 tells us that Jesus was also taught in the Torah.
Numerous verses, such as Surah 34, Saba, verse 31, Surah 35, Fatir, verse 31, attest to the truth that the Torah was uncorrupted in the time of Muhammad (pbuh) in the sixth century A.D. The Arabic phrase "bain yadaihi" which is used in these references to the Torah literally means "between his hands". Dr. W. Campbell writes in his book The Quran and the Bible in the Light of History and Science (Middle East Resources: 1994), page 37: "...usually it is an idiom for "in his presence", or "in his power", or "in his possession," or "at his disposal..." (see also Surah 34, Saba', verse 12)
In the Qur'an some Jewish contemporaries of Muhammad (pbuh) are called "those who guide and do justice in the light of truth," besides many others whose reputation was not so favorable in the sixth century (Surah 7, Al Araf, verse 159, see also Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 66). The very fact that they were commended so highly shows that they were in possession of the uncorrupted Torah. History tells us what was part of it.
Evidence from history:
Like in the case of the Injil, the New Testament, the formation of an official list (canon) of the books that were part of it took a considerable time. When finally an official list was approved it was done so in defense against a growing number of heretical writings. The official list merely confirmed what had been accepted by the Jews centuries before. Then it was unnecessary because there was a common agreement as to which writings were part of the Torah.
After giving nine solid reasons for an early formation of the canon of the Old Testament, the authors of An Introduction to the new Testament [D. Carson, D.J. Moo, L. Morris (Apollos: 1992), pages 491-92] conclude by saying,
"It appears, then, that there is adequate evidence to support the view that there was a (closed) canon of Scripture to serve as a model in the formation of the New Testament canon. Even if this point be disputed, there is entirely convincing evidence that the Torah (here meaning the Pentateuch) and the Prophets were viewed as closed collections by the first century A.D."
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary [F.F.Bruce (Leicester: IVP, 1980)] concludes an extensive research by saying that the whole Hebrew Bible canon as we know it today existed around 200 B.C.
More evidence from the Qur'an
One argument made by some against the accuracy of the Bible involves this verse:
"All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, except what Israel made unlawful for itself, before the Law (of Moses) was revealed. Say, 'Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth.'" (Surah 3, Ali 'Imran, verse 93).
In this specific incident, the Jews are asked to bring their own Law, the Torah. They are commanded by God to study it in order to find the right answer to a particular question. Maududi, the renowned Islamic scholar, said, that it addressed the difference between Muslims and Jews in regard to eating the meat of camels, hares and coneys. In opposition to Islam, Judaism prohibits the eating of them according to today's Torah (Deuteronomy 14:7).
"But, the open challenge of the Qur'an to them to bring the Torah in proof thereof shows that the commandments referred to above did not exist in the Torah at that time and were inserted afterwards; otherwise the Jews would have at once accepted the challenge of the Qur'an and presented the commandments thereof."
[See: S. Abdul Maududi, The Meaning of the Quran, Vol. I, 12th Edition, (Pakistan: Islamic Publications Pvt LTD., 1992), comment on Surah 6, Al-Anam, verse 145, (hereafter referred to as "Maududi").]
This view is problematic because it ignores the fact that today's English translations of the Torah, such as the New International Version, are based on the Masoretic text--the standard edition of the Hebrew Old Testament. It was prepared by Jewish scholars, called Masoretes, mainly from 500 to the 950 A.D. They introduced vowel points into the consonantal (consonants only) Hebrew text. They also studied each letter, word and phrase and wrote marginal notes commenting on proper grammar and spelling.
[See: The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 2 (U.S.A.: 1982), page 222b.]
Furthermore, the translators compared it with a number of other sources still in existence today, the most important of which are:
The Dead Sea Scrolls, written in Hebrew at about 100 B.C., discovered in the late 1940's and early 1950's in Palestine. "Among the fragments discovered are complete copies or parts of every Old Testament book except Esther, and the variations in the text after a thousand years of copying are minimal."
(See: Josh Mc Dowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions (U.S.A.: 1980).]
The Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, at about 250 B.C.
The Syriac Peshitta, a translation of the whole Bible into the common language of certain parts of Syria, from either the first or second century A.D.
The Vulgate, the entire Bible translated into Latin at about 400 A.D.
In none of the above sources is Deuteronomy 14:7, the verse under consideration, missing! Looking at all the evidence, it is impossible to say that it was missing in the prophet of Islam's time and only later inserted into the text!
"But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) Law before them? -Therein is the (plain) command of Allah; yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not (really) people of faith" (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 43).
Maududi comments on this verse: "...sometimes, when their own law did not suit them, they would take their cases to the Holy Prophet in the hope that they might obtain a more favorable decree from him than they could from their own law." (Ibid)
This shows clearly that even corrupted Jews would never change the written Torah! They were only prepared to conceal the meaning of it. In spite of their wickedness, they did not dare to change the written form of the Torah! That is why, according to the Qur'an, Allah told them to look up their own law in which is the plain command of God!
"Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel" (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 47).
This command is given to Muhammad's (pbuh) contemporaries. It is written in the "present" tense, which in the Arabic language can also refer to the future! If the Gospel (Injil) was corrupted at that time, then surely Allah would never have asked the people of the Gospel, the Christians, to believe in it!
"If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: But many of them follow a course that is evil" (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 69).
The fact that there were Jews and Christians "on the right course" in Muhammad's (pbuh) time confirms the Torah and the Gospel to be unchanged in the 6th century A.D.! Certainly, they could never have been described in such an honorable way if they had "stood fast" by corrupted Holy Books!
"Say: 'O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord...'" (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 68).
"No change can there be in the Words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme Felicity." (Surah 10, Junus, verse 64).
No Muslim should doubt that the Torah and the Injil are words of Allah too! Therefore, it is impossible for man to change them. God has the power to watch over His word and to preserve it.
The passages above attest to the fact that the Bible, consisting of the Torah (Old Testament) and the Injil (New Testament) was unchanged and trustworthy in the time of Muhammad (pbuh), that is in the 6th century A.D!
Is only part of the Bible trustworthy?
Many Muslims have the mistaken idea that parts of the Bible have been unchanged. Faith is only put in those statements which are supposed to confirm one's own opinions. Some Jews did the same in the days of Muhammad (pbuh). The verse that was revealed to him on that occasion is still relevant for all those who make the same error:
"...Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?--And on the Day of Judgement they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do" (Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 85).
Does the Qur'an declare that the Bible has changed?
First of all, it needs to be noted that the Qur'an nowhere explicitly states the Injil (Gospel) was changed!
But what about the Torah? History shows that whenever God revealed Himself, most of His people fell into disobedience after a period of time. So it was with the Jews. In spite of this sad fact, there were always, up to this very day, good Jews who remain true to the book God gave them:
"Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth" (Surah 7, Al A'raf, verse 159).
God's word is truth and good Jews surely would never have changed the meaning or even the words of their Holy Book! Let us now examine what bad Jews did to the Torah:
"There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, 'That is from Allah,' but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah and (well) they know it!" (Surah 3, Ali 'Imran, verse 78).
In the verse quoted above, the Jews are reading parts of their Book wrongly, while the written words remain unchanged.
"But because of their breach of their Covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard: They change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the Message that was sent them, nor wilt thou cease to find them- barring a few- ever bent on (new) deceits: But forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): For God loveth those who are kind" (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 13).
The phrase, "They change the words from their (right) places" could mean that they tampered with the text of the Book. However, the second possibility, that the true meaning was distorted, not the text itself, (see also Surah 5, Ma'idah, verse 44) will have to be given preference in the light of the wider context (see above) which clearly shows that:
-The unchanged Torah was with the Jews of Muhammad's
(pbuh) time. (Surah 5, Al Ma 'idah, verses 43,68)
-It was referred to by the Prophet in matters of dispute.
(Surah 3, Ali 'Imran, verse 93)
In Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verses 75-79 (in verse 75, Jews are listening to the Qur'an being recited); Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 46;, the Jews are accused of changing, writing down wrongly, what Muhammad (pbuh) said. After checking all these references it becomes clear that the Torah remained unchanged!
What does the Hadith Say About the Bible?
For many Muslims, the Hadith provides a key to the correct understanding of the Qur'an. It is therefore most interesting to see what it has to say about the accuracy of the Jewish-Christian Scriptures.
According to a tradition found in Mishkat al-Masabith, Book II, chapter 1, pages 62,63, Muhammad (pbuh) confirms that the Jews and the Christians read the Torah and the Gospel. He does not say anything about them being corrupted!
In Bukhari's chapter "How Revelation First Began," we read that the prophet of Islam was taken to Khadijah's cousin, Waraqa ben Naufal. He used to translate the Torah and the Gospel, as God granted him strength. It does not say that he translated corrupted Holy Books!
In the Mishkat al-Masabith, Book XVI, chapter 1, page 758, we read how:
Muhammad (pbuh) judges according to the Torah that is before him without saying anything about it being changed!
Out of the numerous traditions about this subject there is only one reference found in Bukhari, Sahih, Kitab al-Shahada, number 29, which says that the people of the Book changed it's actual text.
It may be possible that individual Jews in Arabia corrupted distinct texts of the Torah. Some Muslims would interpret Surah 2, Baqara, verses 78-79 to refer to the Torah and not to the Qur'an as mentioned above. But what about all the copies found already in other parts of the world? It is not possible that they have been changed in the same way. Besides that, the Christians who also believe in the Torah of the Jews, were known to be in great opposition to the Jews. How could they have come together to corrupt their common Scriptures?
Therefore, it can be taken as a proven fact that the Bible has not been changed before the time of Muhammad (pbuh). Otherwise, God was demanding us to believe in Scriptures that were already corrupted. If we assume that changes were made during or after the prophet's time, we can simply compare a twentieth century copy with one that was written before the sixth century. The result will be that all the teaching remained the same!
Has the Bible been abrogated (repealed, abolished)?
Most Islamic scholars believe that the Qur'an abrogates not the Bible, but either certain revelations within the Qur'an only, or, also parts of the Sunna.
Other scholars hold the view that the Sunna can abolish the Qur'an as well as the Sunna. Only a few, among them the Ahmadiyyas, teach that the Qur'an actually annuls the Bible. [For more details see Ahmad von Denffer, 'Ulum al-Quran (U.K.: Islamic Foundation), pages 104-113.]
This minority is wrong for two main reasons:
In Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 48 the Qur'an is spoken of as confirming the Scripture that was before it and as a watcher over it. The Arabic meaning of the word "watch" (Muhaimin) can also be rendered "one who safeguards", "stands witness", "preserves" and "upholds". (See Abdullah Yusuf Ali's footnote) This clearly contradicts the view that the revelations given to the prophet of Islam allegedly abrogated the Bible! If this was the case there would be no need to confirm the Torah and the Gospel or even to watch over them in such a determined way.
In Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 106 the principle of abrogation is explained: For every revelation that is abrogated something better or similar is substituted. If this verse would refer to the abrogation of the Gospel through the Qur'an, it would mean that the teaching of the former book would be inferior or at least similar to the latter one.
The essence of Christianity consists of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which is totally rejected by Islam (see also 1 Corinthians 15:14). The Bible teaches that, through faith in Jesus' work, the assurance of forgiveness of sin, of eternal life in God's presence, through grace (God's undeserved favor) is available to everyone! He who puts his faith into practice by obeying what the Gospel says will benefit from all these blessings.
Surely this wonderful teaching cannot be called inferior or similar to the doctrines of the Qur'an! There we read about how people may get forgiveness from God through their good works, and, if He is willing, by His mercy. Paradise will be a place where God is absent. In Surah 76, Dahr, verse 5 and Surah 56, Waqi'a, verses 35-38, we read that what was forbidden on earth will be legal (drinking of wine, and having sexual relationships with many virgins). The prophet taught a real and literal interpretation of these sensual delights in heaven. (See Sahihu Muslim, Mishkat book 23, chapter 13) It normally can only be entered after having spent some time in Hell first.
Furthermore, the minority who says the principle of abrogation given in Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 106, applies to the Bible will be left without guidelines as regards to their own book. They will have to depend on a later, unsure historical development about the code of abrogation in order to deal with passages such as:
In Surah 58, Al Mujadilah, verse 12, the believers are commanded to give alms before a private consultation with the Messenger. In verse 13 they are told that it is no longer necessary.
In Surah 33, Al Ahzab, verses 50-51 Muhammad (pbuh) is allowed to marry and divorce an unlimited number of women. In verse 52 he is prohibited to continue to do so.
In Surah 73, Al Muzzammil, verses 2-4, the prophet of Islam is commanded to spend about half of the night in prayer and reading of the Qur'an. In verse 20 of the same Surah, this is changed into what is easy for him and those who followed his example.
The attentive reader is left with a fundamental problem of discrepancy. A number of Biblical teachings (at least as they were believed by some of the prophet's contemporaries) are described as erroneous in the Qur'an. Yet, the Qur'an confirms the Bible to be the unchanged word of God! Surah 4, Nisaa, verse 82, says that the Qur'an is not from God if one finds discrepancies in it! Furthermore, Muslims who say that the Bible is corrupted also contradict their own book.
Many sincere Muslims, who leave room in their hearts for the possibility that they could be wrong in the beliefs they were taught from early childhood, are left deeply moved after understanding these facts. It is with those Muslims that the author identifies with. His life too was worked out for him by others. For a number of years he lived more or less comfortably within the boundaries set by people, often "in the name of God".
Confronted by many other religions and ideas of how to live a meaningful live, he set out to discover the truth for himself. In that process, realizing that it is impossible to detect infinite reality as a finite being, he prayed wholeheartedly, "God if you are there, show me which way is the right one."
A few days later, he heard the Eternal One speaking through some passages of the Bible which were given to him by a friend! After confessing his sins, he asked Jesus to come in his life and use it for his glory. Since that incredible experience the author's life changed, literally like day and night! He now follows Jesus Christ, who died for his sins on the cross, who rose again on the third day, who promises eternal life in heaven and who says:
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
"Whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37).
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the word was God. The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us....He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him....Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:1,14,11)
(Above content authored and provided by Abdullah Ibrahim)
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